The Kansas City Chiefs remain among the favorites to win Super Bowl 55 because they have a wealth of talent surrounding Patrick Mahomes, who has ruled the NFL the past three seasons with nearly 14,000 yards and 114 touchdown passes.
However, it’s time to consider the possibility that Mahomes is living on borrowed time in a season in which at least half a dozen other teams look to be Kansas City’s equal. The narrow escape against the Atlanta Falcons illustrated how the Chiefs are merely running with the pack rather than leading it.
The Kansas City Chiefs scored a lucky escape
The Atlanta Falcons are not as bad as their 4-11 record suggests. The shock of the early loss to the Dallas Cowboys contributed to the descent into the abyss, and the team has lost the momentum of the midseason coaching change. But the Falcons have lost eight times by a touchdown or less this season. Meanwhile, the past seven games in Kansas City’s 10-game winning streak have all come by six points or less.
The Chiefs were ripe for the taking in Week 16 against the Atlanta Falcons despite playing at home. And that’s nearly what happened. With just over two minutes to play, Atlanta held a 14-10 lead when Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes targeted Tyreek Hill. The pass was underthrown by the slimmest of margins, which gave A.J. Terrell a chance to make a play on the ball. The acclaimed rookie cornerback leaped in front of Hill and made the grab.
Terrell looked to have a solid grip on the ball, but he lost it as he fell to the Arrowhead Stadium turf. The impact shook the ball loose in the end zone, turning an interception into an incompletion.
One play later, Mahomes connected with Demarcus Robinson in the back of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown pass and a 17-14 victory that assured Kansas City of the home field throughout the upcoming AFC playoffs.
Patrick Mahomes has lost his grip on the MVP award
Patrick Mahomes finished 24-for-44 with 278 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 17-14 victory vs. the Atlanta Falcons. He also threw his sixth interception of the season, and two fourth-quarter throws were nearly picked off. It was just enough to knock Mahomes’ passer rating for the day down to 79.5, his lowest of the season and the fourth consecutive week that he came in at 95.6 or lower.
Mahomes’ numbers for the season hold up well against any NFL quarterback. He leads the league with 4,740 passing yards and had thrown for 38 touchdowns against those six interceptions, three of which came in Week 14 at Miami. However, Mahomes can no longer be considered the leading candidate for MVP.
Aaron Rodgers broke stride in an awful Week 6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the Green Bay Packers veteran has been chipping away since. He was masterful in the snow on Sunday Night Football hours after Mahomes’ close call. Playing in the snow and cold in Green Bay, he went 21-for-25 for 231 yards and four touchdowns to rout the dangerous Tennessee Titans, 40-14.
Rodgers has thrown for 4,059 yards and a league-high 44 touchdowns. With just five interceptions, his 119.4 passer rating has Rodgers on pace for an NFL record.
When will Patrick Mahomes’ luck run dry?
Football is one of those sports that generates all sorts of statistics, and the numbers go well beyond yardage, touchdowns, and tackles. There are even people out there tracking woulda/coulda/shoulda types of data.
During the Kansas City Chiefs’ 17-14 victory over the Atlanta Falcons, announcers mentioned that Patrick Mahomes has thrown 16 balls this season that could or should have been intercepted. It’s unknown how long anyone has been seriously tracking that statistic, but The Big Lead said Mahomes’ number is an NFL record.
The Football Outsiders website compiles extensive data on missed interceptions at the end of each season, and it seems that Mahomes has a history of being helped out by defenders’ misfortunes.
In 2018, when Mahomes threw 50 touchdowns but only 12 interceptions in 615 passes, the website determined that the Chiefs quarterback tied Derek Carr for the NFL lead with 10 “dropped interceptions.”
Last season, Jameis Winston led the NFL in every imaginable measure of interceptions, and his season would have been even worse had there not been 13 potential picks that were dropped. Mahomes checked in at five such plays, well behind Kyle Allen (12) and a number of other QBs.
If the count on Mahomes this season is accurate, however, one has to wonder how many times drops came into play in Kansas City’s recent string of close calls. The issue becomes even more meaningful in the win-or-go-home world of the playoffs beginning next month.
Season stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.